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Blur Studio Creates VFX for Sci Fis ?SoulKeeper

3D Creature Included in VFX Package for Supernatural Comedy Premiering this Month By DMN Staff Writer
Blur Studio designed and produced more than 80 visual effects scenes ranging from digital matte paintings to a fully rendered 3D creature for SoulKeeper, director Darin Ferriolas supernatural comedy debuting on the Sci Fi Channel this month. Among other things, the studios animators created a photorealistic reptilian creature that does battle with the heroes in the films sensational climax.

SoulKeeper is the story of a pair of two-bit thieves, played by Rodney Rowland (The 6th Day) and Kevin Patrick Walls (Blade), who are hired to gain possession of the legendary Rock of Lazarus invested with the power to raise the dead. This puts them at odds with Biblical baddy Simon Magus who dreams of using the rock to create an army of evil lost souls and remake the world in his own corrupt image. Irreverent and fast-paced, SoulKeeper combines the screwball comedic antics of Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein with the relentless visual punch of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Unusual for an independent feature, SoulKeeper is packed with visual effects produced using the latest digital technology. The visual effects involved the seamless integration of 3D characters and other elements with live action, adding impact to the production, despite being produced on a independent film budget.

?Blur worked diligently throughout the production to ensure that every effects shot looked real and organic, said Ferriola. ?In pre-production, they helped me determine the best way?creatively and practically?to execute the effects, so that when we arrived on the set, we knew exactly what we wanted to do. The results were fantastic.

Among the more challenging effects elements were the beast, a 10-foot reptilian creature with a particularly nasty disposition. A full-size animatronic was used during the production, but as it couldnt walk, computer graphics were relied on for moving shots. Blur Studio animators used a maquette supplied by the company that built the animatronic and scanned it into the computer for reference, but the digital production model of the creature used in the shots was built from scratch.

Textures were painted on or derived from photos of the model. Weight was conveyed through the creatures heavy gait as well as through subtleties, such as the CG footprints it leaves in the ground as it walks. The animators work in detailing the creatures features and movements produced remarkably lifelike results. Blurs team also took great care in integrating the character with the background scene. The creatures interaction with live-action characters?at one point an actor jumps on its back?appear fully natural.

The most difficult shots to get right were clouds animated to roll across the sky while with lightning crackles within. ?Normally this would be done with a cloud tank, a large glass tank full of water with colored inks injected into the water to look like clouds, explained Blur Studio visual effects supervisor David Stinnett. ?We did all the clouds in CG. It took a lot of tweaking and testing to get the effect the director was looking for, but in the end it worked really well.

Blur Studios shot list also included wispy ghostlike apparitions, glowing eyes for possessed actors, and a beautifully realized matte painting of a creepy mansion standing on a distant hill. Blur Studio was involved in the project for nearly seven months.?Seeing Blurs daily progress, I became aware of their attention to detail, Ferriola recalled. ?Blurs animators created everything in my minds eye. Its that simple.

?SoulKeeper will premiere as a Sci Fi Channel original World Premier Movie and spawn a sequel in 2002, Ferrioloa added. ?I attribute this success in large part to Blur Studio.

Software employed in the project included 3ds max with plug-ins from Digimation, Cebas and Afterworks, among others. Digital Fusion was used for compositing, Commotion for rotoscoping and image cleanup, PhotoShop for 2D painting. Intergraph PCs with dual Pentium 550 Xeons were the primary workstations.

Credits for Blur Studio go to David Stinnett and Steve Blackmon, visual effects supervisors; Al Shier, visual effects producer; Neil Blevins, Tom Dillon, Kirby Miller and Bill Zahn, effects animators; Jon Jordan and Jeff Weisend, character animators; Jon Bunt, rotoscope artist; David March Douglas, digital matte painter; Scott Kirvan, effects programmer; Duane Powell, systems administrator; Daemeon Nicolaou, systems support. Scanning and recording was done at R!OT, Santa Monica, CA.

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